Date: 
Thursday 14 June 2018
Image: 

Journalists, academics, and multicultural community leaders joined a series of panel discussions at the Australian Human Rights Commission on 12 June, as part of the 2018 National Forum on Racial Tolerance and Community Harmony.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane opened the forum with a challenge and a warning.

“At a time when extremist nationalism is on the march, we should be ramping up our efforts to fight racism,” Dr Soutphommasane said in his opening remarks.

“The last thing we should be doing is giving any kind of tacit endorsement to the idea that, on racial matters, social division is generated by the naming of racism. There is no moral equivalence here. Division is caused not by our response to racism; the real division is caused by racism itself.”

The Commissioner said fair-minded Australians, and ethnic and Indigenous communities, must be ready to stand-up again to any proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.

“If people want to change the name or the role of the Race Discrimination Commissioner, they will have to change the Racial Discrimination Act,” he said.

“Those who desire amending the Racial Discrimination Act must know this: the multicultural mainstream of Australian society will not accept any weakening of our laws, or our public stance, against racial discrimination.”

The forum’s first panel focussed on identity politics and the media. Speakers were Benjamin Law, Santilla Chingaipe, Allan Clarke, Isabel Lo, and Naaman Zhou.

Other panels focussed on changing attitudes and behaviours, and anti-racism advocacy. Contributors included Professors Kevin Dunn, Winnifred Louis, and Andrew Jakubowicz. Community representatives including Peter Wertheim, Mary Patetsos, and Tim Lo Surdo also joined the discussions.

Pictured, front row from left: Allan Clarke, Santilla Chingaipe, Benjamin Law and Isabel Lo. Back row: Race Discrimination Tim Soutphommasane and Naaman Zhou.